Tiger makes putts, Kuchar continues making amends, Justin makes a run
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Tiger Woods started making putts. Matt Kuchar continued making amends. And Justin Thomas again was playing as if he was going to make the 2019 Genesis Open his tournament.
The sun came Saturday in southern California, after two days of rain, and there was golf virtually from sunrise, before 7 a.m, until after sunset, which was around 5:20 p.m., the completion of the second round and, after eliminating a large group of people with the cut, the beginning of the third round.
Thomas was in front Friday evening after 30 holes, and he still was in front 24 hours later after 38 holes, if barely, at a cumulative 13 under par, one shot in front of Thomas.
But on Sunday, when the rain that made a mess of this historic tournament (it once was the L.A. Open) at Riviera Country club is supposed to return, each has a scheduled dawn-to-dusk assignment of 34 holes.
Tiger, who was three-putting the first round whenever that was (joke; it was Friday because he was rained out Thursday) was one-putting to begin the third-round Saturday afternoon, starting on the famed 10th — at 315 yards reputedly the hardest short hole on Tour.
He went birdie, eagle (par-5 11th), birdie, birdie, five-under his first four holes, apparently only the second time in 136 rounds he’d done that. “I hit a few good shots,” said Woods, “and made some putts. I didn’t have four 3-putts out there.”
So, through seven holes (he stopped after the 16th), Woods was a cumulative 6 under, seven back of Thomas, and must play more than a round and half, 29 holes, on Sunday.
“It’s not going to be light yet,” said Woods of the early start. “They’re going to be pushing us to get around, give us a bag lunch, and off we go again in the afternoon.”
Kuchar went off again, in a positive way, on the great caddy incident, Matt giving his local caddy in Mexico, David Ortiz, only a previously agreed on $5,000 instead of a bonus or the usual 10 percent from the $1.29 million first prize at Mayakoba.
After apologizing Friday, Kuchar, after his morning round Saturday, gave a deeper explanation of why he didn’t bump up the fee and in effect defended agent Mark Steinberg (yes, he’s also Tiger’s agent, who tried to persuade Matt to be more magnanimous — particularly when Kuchar has big-time endorsements such as Skechers and Workday).
“Listen, I was stubborn, hard-headed,” said Kuchar, who is 40 and earned millions in golf, one way or another. “In my mind I had it as a deal, but after I won, the tournament deal wasn’t a deal. Not a good deal. Any transaction, all parties should come out feeling like they’ve won, and certainly in David’s case he did not feel like he won in that situation, and I needed to make that right.”
Which was by paying another $50,000 to Ortiz, who works at the Camaleon Course, near Cancun, where the Mayakoba is held.
“It’s as simple as that,” said Kuchar, who is 2 under for the Genesis with 26 holes to go on Sunday.
Thomas, who finished with a 6-under 65 for his second round, which ended with six holes Saturday, only made it through two holes in the third round.
“Only two holes in,” said Thomas, “but it’s just such a long day.”
He started the third round with an eagle 3 on the par-five first, which tumbles down a hill from the old Spanish-style clubhouse. “It’s good to get off to a good start and go home and get some rest,” he said.
Rest isn’t something the golfers have had here or last week at Pebble because of the weather delays, hail up north, rain and wind down here.
“Yeah,” said Thomas, “I think I’ve seen briefly. The forecast (Sunday) is pretty difficult. So I’m going to need to be patient because I’m playing so many holes. Stay in it and see what we can do.”
That’s always the idea in golf, no matter who or what.